The field of the study of Western esotericism, as developed by scholars such as Antoine Faivre and Wouter Hanegraaff, is growing in size and importance. Most scholars of Islam, however, have shown no interest in this field. As a result, there is little understanding of the relationship between Islamic esotericism and Western esotericism, and even doubt as to whether there is such a thing as Islamic esotericism in the first place. This article seeks to make an initial contribution to remedying this. It argues that there is indeed an Islamic esotericism that matches Western esotericism very closely. The article compares Islamic and Western esotericism in terms of discourse (both discourse on the exoteric and esoteric levels), as historical phenomena in terms of origins and later contacts, and in terms of structure, that is to say in relation to established religious and political power. It concludes that Islamic esotericism matches Western esotericism in terms of discourse and historical sources, but not in terms of structure, of relations with established religious and political power structures.
Islam; Christianity; Judaism; esotericism; discourse; Neoplatonism